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Carolina Panthers

"Confident" Cade Mays goes into second year with familiarity 

Cade Mays

CHARLOTTE – There's a reason many often expect players to make a jump between year one and year two in the NFL.

More aspects of the game are natural; there's an adjustment to the pace of play, and there's a kind of familiarity in the day-to-day that's hard to reach when you've had less than a year to get to know coaches, teammates, the playbook, and getting around a new facility.

Second-year offensive lineman Cade Mays is one of the few on the Panthers' roster who doesn't need to learn the habits of a new position coach and didn't see a massive influx of new people in position group meetings. Frank Reich retained James Campen when he became head coach, and Carolina kept its starting line intact, re-signing center Bradley Bozeman to put the final piece in place.

And Mays said he felt how that consistency is helping him out heading into his second season.

"I just feel like I feel more confident," Mays said. "I feel like I know the playbook better. I've been playing the majority (at) right guard and center, so I feel comfortable at those spots. I just feel prepared, like I come out here, and I feel like I'm ready. I added some muscle mass in the offseason, got a little bit stronger. So all that stuff has helped me this year."

Cade Mays

Mays, viewed as the kind of player that can slot in multiple places along the offensive line, is now poised to play a more significant role in year two – at least at the start – as one of the primary fill-in guards.

The 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman has received the first wave of reps in Austin Corbett's place at right guard while the veteran recovers from an ACL tear sustained in last year's season finale. Mays was the person who came in for Corbett at New Orleans in January, and he's continued to grow at that spot along the line throughout the spring.

"That's been great for me to be able to learn there," Mays said of getting preseason reps at right guard. "And that's where I finished the season off after Corby got hurt last year. So stepping in there and being comfortable coming into it was big for me. Just building my confidence day after day, trying to get better at something every day."

He said that working alongside Bozeman, the sixth-year veteran who got to Carolina last year and earned the starting job at center as the season progressed, has benefited him.

Bozeman mentored Mays throughout his first year, and the two grew a friendship, which plays into on-field chemistry and contributed to Mays' overall adjustment to the NFL.

"Last year, he kind of took me under his wing and kind of showed me his process and let me learn under him," Mays said. "We became really good friends. We've got a lot of similar hobbies outside of football, so it's easy to click with somebody who likes to do the same things you do. He's just a great guy all around. He's always looking to help somebody, brings a good attitude to work every day. It's just awesome."

Cade Mays, Ikem Ekwonu, Brady Christensen

Mays has also continued to build his bond with fellow 2022 offensive line draftee Ikem Ekwonu, the Panthers' starting left tackle.

Mays said he and Ekwonu will head to train with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather in July after mandatory minicamp breaks like they did last year. Mays said the group of linemen work out, make meals, and this year, they'll have a swimming pool at their house in Dallas.

"It's a lot of fun, a lot of camaraderie," Mays said. "Just a bunch of big guys in one house, so it's fun."

Mays said he doesn't worry too much about the expectations that come with the responsibility of filling in at the right guard spot.

He has faith in the work he has put in and has gone into each day with the confidence that came naturally while leaping between his first and second seasons, preparing in the offseason for the fill-in role that could come to fruition.

"Having the guys next to me that I do puts a lot of confidence in me," Mays said. "And then coming out to work every day, getting to play against our good D-linemen – our D-line room is really good. So being able to play against those guys every day, you know, (it) just improves my craft."

Check out photos from Carolina's Tuesday practice.

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